PAST brings the facts of our shared origins to Mozambique on International Museum Day

The award-winning Walking Tall Educational Theatre Project is heading to Mozambique for the first time, to mark International Museum Day on May 18th.

The project uses physical theatre and science workshops to tell the inspirational and educational story of our shared origins and is a programme of the Johannesburg-based Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST). Already seen by over 1.3-million schoolchildren, educators and communities in Africa, Walking Tall uses the origin sciences to confront misconceptions about race, conservation and science.

Walking Tall’s debut Mozambican performances will take place from May 13th to 17th at the Museu Nacional de Geologia, Museu História Natural and the Museu das Pescas. The programme also includes school visits to enable learners from the region to experience the powerful story of the fossil history of humankind and our place in nature.

Walking Tall’s visit to the country adds another important layer to PAST’s involvement in Mozambique. With a similar fossil heritage to South Africa – including extensive deposits of Karoo flora and fauna – PAST supports researchers working in the country. Among these is Nelson Nhamutole, a geologist based at the National Museum of Geology (NMG), who has been awarded a postgraduate bursary to undertake an MSc at Wits’ Evolutionary Studies Institute, under Professor Marion Bamford. PAST has also just awarded a grant for postgraduate studies to Zanildo Macungo, who is based at NMG. “I would be the first graduate in vertebrate palaeontology in Mozambique,” says Macungo. “PAST’s support means I can be a role model for future generations of scientists in the country.”

“Exploration of our fossil heritage is not simply supporting an academic exercise in chronicling events from eons past,” writes PAST Chief Scientist, Professor Robert Blumenschine. “Instead, it teaches us lessons that can change our attitudes and responses to the most fundamental of challenges facing societies everywhere: discrimination, particularly that based on race, and the rapid, human-induced loss of natural environments and biodiversity.”

Specifically aimed at learners, Walking Tall’s schools production brings home these messages in an entertaining and engaging way. The performance also promotes African pride and dignity by showing that all of humankind is an African species, and that everything that makes us human emerged on the continent.

It is particularly meaningful that Walking Tall’s first performances in Maputo have been timed to align with International Museum Day (IMD). Conceived as a day to show the importance of the role of museums as institutions that serve society and its development, IMD’s 2019 theme is “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The future of tradition”.

“While preserving their primary missions – collecting, conservation, communication, research, exhibition – museums have transformed their practices to remain closer to the communities they serve,” IMD states in a recent press release. “Today they look for innovative ways to tackle contemporary social issues and conflict. By acting locally, museums can also advocate and mitigate global problems, striving to meet the challenges of today’s society proactively. As institutions at the heart of society, museums have the power to establish dialogue between cultures, to build bridges for a peaceful world and to define a sustainable future.”

PAST’s CEO, Andrea Leenen, notes that “this resonates powerfully with PAST’s ongoing work to help unearth, preserve and share the scientific evidence of our origins, and to use its transformative power to positively impact the world”.

“PAST integrates support in the areas of research, education and public understanding in the origin sciences and is currently providing support for the training of palaeobotanists and palynologists at the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) under the directorship of Professor Marion Bamford, herself a globally respected palaeobotanist also working on fossil woods and palaeoecology in Mozambique. We hope this will strengthen the research and science diplomacy between South Africa and Mozambique.”

Walking Tall’s schools project has recently been joined by Walking Tall – I See You, a 20-minute, two-person theatre show that has been created as a powerful tool of transformation for the business community. Designed for adult audiences, particularly thought leaders in the business, public and civil society sectors, this new production is particularly suited as a unique and compelling tool for diversity and inclusion training, and for training in environmental sustainability. Together, Walking Tall and Walking Tall – I See You play an integral role in PAST’s commitment to furthering public understanding of the origin sciences.

PAST (The Palaeontological Scientific Trust) / Walking Tall
Andrea Leenen

Museu Nacional de Geologia
(contact details to be inserted)

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